In search of a storytelling ‘grid’ | part VIII | Storytelling skills

By Limor Shiponi
The Arnolfini Portrait, détail. Source: Wikipedia

Thinking about storytelling skills can become a complicated task considering its reciprocal nature and the presence of three partners:

  • The witnesses can be many different people for every telling, each one of them a universe within a universe
  • Stories are many too and they go through changes and influences
  • The storyteller himself changes all the time

It’s like weaving in a room with a thousand mirrors where the only true certainty is the presence of humans – living bodies. Trying to lay out a list of all the possible skills and their variables, we might find ourselves with some rather peculiar definitions. Knowing the complexities yet trying to keep it simple here is my list of necessary storytelling skills and traits. I’d say you can evaluate them as practical and appreciative – ‘things’ one needs to have and be able to appreciate in order to practice storytelling.

Necessary skills/traits

  • Sense of story – recognizing stories, plots worth weaving, patterns, forms, genres and drama;  appreciation of symbols, themes, history, metaphor (sense making). Substantial familiarity with the cultural spaces and background information of the texts told
  • Recognition of tension and relief, good timing and the ability to define pace; Vocal capacity, flexibility and resonance
  • The ability to express, craft and compose with words, sounds (silence) and gesture, separately and combined
  • Body of knowledge based on experience in storytelling events; repertoire
  • The ability to define gestures, body awareness, space-intelligence, the ability to commit one’s intention and total being to the event
  • Strong accessibility to input arriving through senses, mind and soul – external and internal; Common sense, the ability to shift attention, adapt, improvise, make fast decisions and let go

Unnecessary skills/traits

  • Reading, writing
  • The ability to analyze what you are doing using knowledge from other fields
  • Additional skills from other arts, technology, science, humanities etc.; any kind of title besides ‘storyteller’
  • Certain voice, physical looks or hierarchical status

If you want to be a storyteller this is what you need to know… click the link and you’ll find my “storyteller’s blessing for the road” which is a short talk (translated from Hebrew) I give to my students when I send them into the world.

6 thoughts on “In search of a storytelling ‘grid’ | part VIII | Storytelling skills”

  1. Pingback: Storytelling Business Social Media Marketing PR & Technology Curated Stories June 14, 2011

  2. Great list, Limor, no quarrel of any of the necessities…but I’d like to broaden things to say that although they’re by no means necessary, other media can add appreciably to things. Being completely engulfed in a projected image can be remarkably liberating, for example…but whatever you seek to add, it must come from the story. It’s not easy, but it’s worth exploring I feel.

  3. No quarrel what so ever here… such a pity 🙂 from the story always therefore my quarrel with those who don’t get this point. I’ve seen the most ridiculous things performed with utter solemnity, sure they were “rich” and “evolutionary”.

    1. Striving to disagree, but can’t…dammit! 🙂 I’ve seen some nonsense as well, but there’s always something to be learned – if only ‘don’t do this, on any account’. Maybe there’s something about giving creative people new toys to play with that temporarily overwhelms their good sense?
      When it’s done well, though, it’s breathtaking…in the UK Complicite are getting incredibly good at it, but Simon Mcburney always spends a long time researching and devising, and will call in experts from relevant disciplines to make sure the company has a real grasp of the subject matter, so all the creative decisions that they take (including the use of technology) flow from their understanding of the story. A really good model I think – could be a bit biased though, as a good friend of mine is a regular part of the company 🙂

  4. Pingback: Art of storytelling discussion 10 | Limor’s Storytelling Agora : Just Story It – Articles and Blog Postings

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